County Executive Ted Rumley (left) with Dist. 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith
The Dade County Commission quietly passed a fiscal year 2017 budget of $9,112,000 in a five-minute, sparsely-attended special called meeting Thursday afternoon.
“The next one will be lengthy, because that’s when we have to set the millage rate and all that stuff,” said County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley. “Then the digest comes in and school board’s got to do all their homework, whether they’re going up or down—so there’s a lot to be done between now and then.”
Rumley explained, as he has before, that the Dade Board of Education sets its own budget and determines its own millage rate and that the county government’s only role in that process is to collect the money and turn it over.
“Almost 75 percent—72.3 percent of your tax bill goes to the board of education,” said Rumley. “Then we get the rest of it to run the county.”
The county uses its 27.7-percent share of the property tax dollar to pave roads, fund the sheriff’s department, provide 911 and ambulance service, run the courts, pay the public defender’s office and provide all other county services.
Though Rumley did not mention it, historically, when the board of education has raised its millage rate, which it has been obliged to several times, it has done so without exciting public umbrage; whereas when the county commission proposed raising its rate last year, protesters packed the room. This despite the lopsided school system/county ratio that means a rate hike on the school side raises a tax bill three times as much.
Rumley says in other states this is not so. “In Hamilton County and some of your Tennessee counties, it all comes through the commission and they decide how much money the school board gets to run the schools,” he said. “You want to talk about a knockdown-dragout.”
Schoolteachers are paid by the state, but Rumley says it is county funds that pay for the supplements commonly awarded to school system employees. “When they hire a coach, they might hire him in at $60,000 and gave him a $30,000 supplement,” he said.
“That’s not state money. That’s our money.”
The school board meets in July to set its budget and discuss its millage rate. Rumley stressed the county commission has no influence over that process.
In other incidental tax business, Rumley said public consternation over the recent property revaluations by the Dade Tax Assessor’s office continues. Some parcels’ evaluations were increased by over 100 percent while others lost enough value to cost their owners a sale, he said.
“I think we’ll have as many appeals as we’ve ever had this year,” he said.